It appears that the Armenian government believes that paying state employees more money translates into better government.
It also believes that higher wages to state employees will cut down on corruption risks and increase the overall productivity of the bureaucracy.
At least that is the argument the government has been using to support its bill that the National Assembly has been debating for the past three days.
Take President Serzh Sargsyan for example. He now gets a monthly income of 436,460 AMD ($1,075).
If the government sponsored bill passes, his monthly income would shoot up to 1,322,800 AMD ($3,258) as of July 1, 2014. That’s a whopping 200% increase.
National Assembly President Hovik Abrahamyan and Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan now get 373,540 AMD ($920) per month. This would rise to 1,190,520 AMD ($2,932) if the bill is adopted.
Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister now gets 357,810 AMD ($881) monthly. This will increase to 992,100 AMD ($2,444). Also getting the same wage will be the Prosecutor General, President of the Cassation Court, President of the Control Chamber and the Human Rights Defender.
Under the new law, Members of Parliament, Provincial Governors (Marzpet), and First Deputy Ministers will receive 661,400 AMD ($1,692) across the board. MPs now make 331,595 AMD and Marzpets, 258,190.
The Police Chief of Armenia, who now takes home 402,810 AMD ($992), will be getting 793,680 AMD ($1,955). This is the new salary that Ministers and the Chiefs of Staff of the Government and President will receive as well.
The government says it wants to implement a more unified wage scale system that would gradually do away with the salary discrepancies among various departments that have accumulated over time.
Since the proposed pay raises directly impact on their pocketbooks, MPs actually have followed the debates with greater than usual interest.
Many didn’t understand how the government calculated their new wage rate, given that the same wages would also be received by Provincial Governors and First Deputy Ministers.
All government Chief of Staff Vache Gabrielyan could say in this regard was that the calculations were based on professional studies and interviews conducted with various officials, including MPs.
This seems a bit suspicious since I couldn’t find one MP who said they had been interviewed.
Some MPs demanded that the names of their colleagues who had been interviewed, and asked to evaluate their work, be made known. Gabrielyan promised to publish their names but they haven’t been so far.
For example, MP Arpineh Hovhannisyan wanted to know who had evaluated the work productivity of the Presidential Chief Advisor, who will be getting paid 727,540 AMD if the bill passes. That’s 66,140 more than the MPs will get, so I guess many in parliament felt somehow slighted.
Opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan rhetorically asked if the government was doing such a great job to warrant these raises.
He declared that he would vote against any raises for President Sargsyan, National Assembly Speaker Abrahamyan and other officials.
“These are people under whose watch poverty has jumped from 27.6% to 37%,” Pashinyan said.